As I dragged my sorry torso, slapping spider arms and spindly legs around the final corner into Hermitage Academy, my eyes fell on the race clock in its understated grey box perched next to the finishing banners and blue and white blow up arch. The first two numbers were ‘38’. As my lungs continued to blow like an engine on empty, a pair of bellows with a hole in the middle, my eyes continued to move right to see another two numbers. They said ‘38’ as well….but the second set of numbers kept moving….39….40…. I was nearly at the line but had to dig deep. Desperate measures. Run, Forest. Crossing in 38:41 I fell forward and gasped in lungful's of air. I wiped the sweat off my head and nose. That was tougher than it should have been.
On reflection, I was really pleased with my run, all things considered. My technique had crumpled somewhere around the 5k mark, as I peered at my garmin. Running along Argyle Street the roads were on ‘soft close’, the occasional car creeping along between runners. We were in the middle of the road. The cherry blossoms that lined the unlikely boulevard were, in any other circumstances, beautiful. I had no time to appreciate their feminine beauty. I was on a mission.
I have family in Helensburgh and used an excuse of a visit to justify an entry and overnight stay for the first of the Babcocks Series's 10k’s. The new school, with all its bells and whistles, was the race HQ and there was plenty of space to park and toilets for all. The youngster appeared from Raintown to offer support, but was miffed that the tea, coffee and cake stall wasn’t opening until after the race….think they missed a trick there.
I had a thick throat, but otherwise was buoyed up by my new mantra of self-management in terms of my weekly training and racing. You have to have the right mindset before races. I am mainly my own coach now, although I still like nipping down to the club when I can. I keep it varied. I have had a couple of good races in recent months, albeit that they are short and relays. A 10k is a step up in distance.
The first mile was a six minute affair with a drag up through a housing estate before a steady drop onto the mean streets of drizzle town. There was quite a bit of support out for the local Dumbarton and Helensburgh runners, and I fell in between 2 girls, one of which was running for the prison service, the other was wearing a yellow top. They both looked strong. Both had good technique and every time someone else passed me, I latched onto their stride, their heels, anything. I tried to copy them to get me through another kilometre. The periodic barks from the marshalls was like something from Poltergiest….’keep to the left….don’t look at the light, child….’.
A wee dog on a lead had a go at me as I mounted the pavement at 7k and the shock gave me a little adrenaline jolt but it wasn’t enough and I eventually lost touch of the two girls in the last 2 km; However I clocked in 67th and 4th vet (O50) and delivered a ‘well below my target sub40’. I also won a spot prize - I found a great tome of ‘100 years of Shettleston Harriers’ along with my Tunnocks log (not a metaphor) in my medal bag. Not sure if I also got a pair of socks or not. The youngster flicked through it, raised her eyebrows and said ‘its all men and there aren’t even any colour photos in it; typical.'
This serious racing stuff is punishing and if undertaken, has to be approached with both caution, respect and commitment. Either way, it’s the best 10k result for me since Dumbarton in 2016 when I was a lot lighter. Next up, the Black Rock 5. All aboard.